Hockey East Preview- Notre Dame Fighting Irish

BY: DAN MCLOONE

Losses: D Jared Beers, F Jeff Costello, F David Gerths, D Stephen Johns, D Kevin Lind, G Joe Rogers, F Bryan Rust, G Steven Summerhays, D Shayne Taker, F T.J. Tynan, F Mike Voran

Newcomers: D Nathan Billitier, F Anders Bjork, F Bo Brauer, D Tony Bretzman, F Dawson Cook, F Jake Evans, D Jordan Gross, F Connor Hurley, G Cal Petersen, D Luke Ripley

One year after shocking the experts and eliminating powerhouse Boston College in the Hockey East Tournament Quarterfinals, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish find themselves in the middle of a changing of the guard. Gone are some of the staples of last year’s team, and it will be up to head coach Jeff Jackson to find the right lineups that can replace the production of the previous senior class.

Perhaps most crucial will be how the team can replace the scoring of T.J. Tynan, Bryan Rust, Jeff Costello, Stephen Johns and Shayne Taker. The seniors finished last season as five of the top eight scorers on the team, leaving a potential void this year. Jackson will rely heavily on sophomore center Vince Hinostroza, who was named to the Hockey East All-Rookie team last season after amassing 32 points, including 24 assists. Hinostroza’s extremely promising freshman campaign has left Jackson confident that he can be a playmaker and facilitator in the clutch.

Hinostroza will share the scoring load with junior captain Steven Fogarty and alternate captains senior Peter Schneider and junior Sam Herr. Fogarty and Schneider combined for just 27 points total last year, but should have more opportunities as they embrace leadership positions for the club. Herr will look to continue his success after a breakout sophomore year that saw him finish third on the team in goals with 14. Junor Mario Lucia will also try to recapture his goal scoring of the previous year, which saw him score 16 goals to go along with 15 assists.

Additionally, Notre Dame’s strong incoming freshman class has the potential to make an immediate impact on the score sheet, as well. Boston Bruins draft pick Anders Bjork can make a splash in South Bend, and his father, Kirk, was an All-American at Notre Dame in 1982. Look for forward Connor Hurley to also have a big impact as a freshman.

The Fighting Irish will also suffer the loss of standout goalie Steven Summerhays, who led Hockey East last year in wins (21), minutes played (2234) and shutouts (7), and also was second in goals against average with 2.04. The Irish may look to sophomore Chad Katunar to provide the saves, but they will most likely use freshman standout Cal Petersen in goal. Petersen, who waited to come to South Bend until incumbent Summerhays graduated, was awarded the Dave Peterson Goalie of the Year Award presented to the top U.S. goaltender each year.

With so much riding on how well young pieces can replace the impact of graduated seniors, the Fighting Irish may get off to a bit of a slow start in the competitive Hockey East. However, if Hinostroza, Herr and Lucia can click up front and Petersen is as good as advertised, Notre Dame may compete for a postseason spot.

Bottom Line: While the changes in personnel mean that Notre Dame may not be a huge threat to win the entire conference, they could prove a dangerous opponent once their pieces click. They will likely finish middle of the pack.